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[Preface: A week ago I posted a thread detailing my observations after renting a Honda Civic Hybrid for a couple of days. I liked the car except for the poor mileage I got: 23mpg average for a couple of highway trips, though the last one got over 30mpg average, but still low. Mixed driving was bad as well. And when I first picked up the car, it showed a 33.3mpg average over 288 miles, so even its former drivers didn't have much better luck.]
This morning I rented a 2005 Prius from the same place I had rented the HCH. The trip odometer had been showing an average mileage of 36.6 mpg before I cleared it and started the car, by the way. Anyway on to the review... since I covered mileage first in the HCH review, I'll start with it here.
Mileage was excellent, if oddly sporadic. My first highway trip, I found cruising anywhere between 80-90mph yielded about 32mpg, with A/C on. But during my second highway trip, my mileage was between 40-50mpg, again cruising at 80-90mph. At exactly 90mph the energy screen was showing a current mileage of usually around 42-44mpg if I remember correctly. For the entire highway trip, it basically remained between 37mph and 54mpg, not counting the obvious "99 mpg" coasting that sometimes happened. That trip was with A/C off, but it's hard to believe that's the reason for the gigantic improvement. Anyway the results were similarly excellent during non-highway driving, though they were noticeably worse, due to accelerating after stops. The Prius seems to be much more adept even at high-speed cruising than just accelerating to 25mph from a stop.
I didn't reset the trip meter anytime, and my total average mileage, including that bad first highway trip, was 38.4 mpg over 66 miles. But if that first trip was excluded, it would have been around the mid-40s. And I'm not a gentle driver.
I also want to mention that the engine turned on and off very quietly and smoothly. When accelerating ridiculously gently, the engine could remain off, though accelerating quicker made it instantly turn on and take control, but with the radio on it's impossible to notice without looking at the energy screen. And when I was done accelerating, it instantly turned off. Very nice.
Performance was excellent. The car had no trouble accelerating up hills like the HCH did. Braking, however, sucks. It's not nearly as smooth as the Honda's and I kept lurching drunkenly when backing up out of parking spaces since I'd apply the brakes gently to slow down and the car instantly stops, so I let up a bit and the car moves back an inch, then I apply a feather to the brake and it lurches to a stop again. It's not important but the Honda did implement better braking.
Steering is good. It didn't have any noticeably dead zone and it was a bit tighter than the HCH's... at highway speeds it was definitely better, as I didn't have to turn the wheel 60 degrees on very gentle turns like I had to with the HCH. It still wasn't as tight as I prefer but it was good. What was really nice, however, was the really small turning radius. The Prius is a large car, on the outside at least, yet I could turn so sharply that parallel parking was so much more pleasant with it than with most other cars I've driven. The HCH had an identical minimum turning radius.
The view was not very good looking forward, though I could get used to it... but the windshield seemed a bit too small and too far forward. One of the results is that it doesn't really feel like I'm on the road so much as floating above it, which I hate. It's hard to tell exactly where the wheels of the car are. I guess it's hard to explain, but I just didn't like that front windshield. The rear one, on the other hand, I have no complaints about. The bar wasn't a problem and since the glass actually goes lower than on many cars, that improves the view to a degree, and certainly helps make parking easier. That, and the semi-hatchback design means the car doesn't stick out any farther than the glass.
The electronics were bad, in my opinion. For one thing, everything was based on the center LCD. There were rudimentary radio controls, but to do something as simple as changing to a different preset, you have to use the LCD, which means pressing the Radio button, then touching the part of the screen corresponding to your preset. It's not a fun thing to do while driving. And of course to change the fan or A/C or whatever, you press the Climate button and again use the touch-screen. So since the controls for everything are in exactly the same location (touching parts of the LCD screen), it seems impossible to do without looking at the LCD and diverting your attention from the road.
Plus, it took me a while to figure out how to turn the car on, even though I theoretically knew how. It was after I had already driven the car to a store, and was trying to leave. I pressed the power button and it appeared to turn everything on, except I could not shift out of neutral and engage the engine. Finally I figured out I had to press the brake when pushing the power button. This makes no sense whatsoever since Park was engaged already.
Also, there's a shortage of lights. I hunted around for the button to turn the interior instrumentation lights on, until I eventually realized they already were on. There are very very dim lights on the steering wheel and radio buttons, though they're hard to notice, and there are no lights anywhere else besides the dashboard and center console LCD. The doors were pitch black, even the vanity mirrors had no lights. Stupid. Of course there are overhead lights, but nearly all cars have lights by the vanity mirrors to help see your face.
Probably my biggest complaint is with the fuel bladder Toyota elected to use. I drove 66 miles, then drove near the rental place and refueled. Since I averaged 38.4 mpg, I should have pumped close to two gallons. Well, the fuel pump shut off 6 or 7 times while pumping just half a gallon. I gave up at that point, but fortunately the rental place didn't complain about the mismatch between miles driven and gas pumped (they require a gas receipt to prove it's full). I'm looking at hybrids partly for range; I like to drive for a while before refueling since I find it a pain, but it's an incredible pain with the Prius and I hear the bladder usually only lets 7-8 gallons in without complaint. And I'm certainly not prepared to spend 30 minutes fighting the gas pump.
Overall, the car had really excellent mileage and performance, but there were problems with most things not under the hood. I wouldn't be opposed to buying a Prius, though that gas bladder is infuriating, but I'm going to wait for the 2nd-generation HCH and see what that's like.
Last edited by CGameProgrammer; 08-14-2005 at 12:19 AM.
Just so you know, the Prius does come (or at least can come) with lights on the vanity mirrors, it took me a while to figure out how to turn them on because there's a switch and you have to open the mirror cover slide thing in order for them to switch on!
Also the dim dash lighting can be adjusted, there's a thumb wheel on the left hand side of the dash that changes the brightness of the dash and various lights, as well as controlling the LCD's automatic night mode by clicking all the way 'bright'.
I saw the slider for controlling dashboard/LCD brightness but it didn't affect the brightness of the steering wheel controls or anything else. It may have been broken or something; it really was *very* dim.
Interesting review - thanks! (although I note it is based on a whopping 66 miles, I usually wait until I have logged at least 1k mi on a car before I dare to share a review).
Do not all Prii have steering wheel controls for A/C, audio, etc...?
On mine I can change A/C (on - off, temp setting, recirc) on the wheel, and can completely control the stereo from the wheel: on/off, modes (AM/FM/tape/CD), cycle through preset stations, change tracks and CDs, and of course volume.
I wonder whether the fule bladder filling is an issue only in some areas or states that have different nozzles? Never had a problem in TX.
In my view the greatest weaknesses of the 05 Prius is the steering, which I find simply horrible: overassisted, absolutely devoid of any feedback, and the car doesn't track very well. I've gotten used to it by now.
For me the seats are also very uncomfortable, and in terms of these latter points i terribly miss my former MINI, but for my wife it's the opposite, see disliked the stiff suspension and ultra crisp handling of the MINI, and the seats were even worse in her opinion.
Interesting complaint about the braking - you should try a Prius Gen I...
even being spoiled by the MINI, I actually quite like the Prius brakes.
Anyway, personally I think the Prius more than any otehr vehicle out there is one that deserves to be looked at for a few more miles before coming to conclusions about it, mostly on accoutn of it's many idiosynchracies. Sort of like the old Citroens, like the DS19 etc... and what wonderful cars those were (I had a GS for a while years back), but definitely took learning and getting used to breaks, steering and suspension.
Yeah, I didn't take a long trip with it -- I just drove it like I drive my regular car, and observed the results. I did see the steering wheel controls but wasn't sure exactly what could be done with them and didn't bother experimenting. So I guess there may not have been anything to complain about on that point.
As for comfort, I didn't notice anything bad about the seat, though I wasn't in the car for a very long time... but I did notice the HCH felt more comfortable. The difference was not enormous to me, but maybe it's related to one's size -- I'm 5'6 and relatively thin.
It is true that many of the functions in terms of radio, cd, and climate can be done using the steering wheel controls. (Although I would have like a fan speed control on the steering wheel, while others just lower or raise the temperature). However it is very possible to get too distracted from the center LCD and some functions can only be done through it, so I can that as a valid complaint from some.
As for comfort, I didn't notice anything bad about the seat, though I wasn't in the car for a very long time... but I did notice the HCH felt more comfortable. .
My first impression of the Prius seat was that it isn't as comfortable as the HCH (seems too high and far away from the controls). But I found that driving long distances nonstop, I don't get shoulder/neck aches like I did with the HCH. Don't know why. However, I agree the HCH is more comfortable for short hops.
Great review ! Whenever I fill my Prius up, which is usually when there is only one bar left I am able to get in a little over 9 gallons before the pump shuts off automatically, then I can usually drive it well over 400 miles. I average between 44 and 48+ mpg, and I do all sorts of driving (highway, city, etc.).